Sunday, March 4, 2007

Thanks, Global Warming!

Japan is coming out of its warmest winter in quite a while. We had a few windy, bitterly cold days and nights but as far as I know my little corner of Nihon got below freezing only a few times. I could be wrong, because I didn't check the temperatures as often as I did back in the U.S. I haven't been watching the local nightly news; I'm not even sure there is a local nightly news!

And while I'm in favor of mild winters, of course... I'm not in favor of wholesale climate change. It may be politically and economically unpleasant for some cynical manipulators of public opinion, but almost the entire mainstream scientific establishment believes global warming in incontrovertible. Those funded by political thinktanks are holding out, in a similar fashion to how the Soviet Union would only accept certain Marxist-friendly genetic theories, leading to failed crops and poor harvest and starvation. All politics aside, there's no way anyone possessed of a reasoning mind can deny that human activity is having a vast, negative impact on the earth.

The end result of this warm winter is that the cherry blossoms are opening much earlier this year. In fact, I was out with a friend yesterday, and she excitedly pointed out a cherry tree in full bloom as we drove past a temple.

As beautiful as cherry blossoms are, and as much as they speak to the hearts of many Japanese people, this is probably not a good thing. Cherry blossom-viewing season is a special time here. One thing I love about Japan is this idea of taking pleasure in something ephemeral. In spring, it's cherry blossom-viewing parties, picnics called hanami. In the autumn, it's viewing the moon, known as tsukimi.

Sakura. That's the Japanese name for cherry blossoms. Sakura time is brief and that appeals to the Japanese soul. A brief flowering of beauty, bittersweetly enjoyed even more because it is so short lived.

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